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The Resume: A short guide to your job hunt lifeline

I admit that not too long ago, I wasn’t even aware of the difference between a Resume and a Curriculum Vitae (CV). So I’ll just clarify the difference for those of you who are wondering. Essentially a resume is a short, concise overview of your skills and is very job specific. Most recruiters and hiring managers would tell you that sending a generic “resume” that you haven’t modified to fit the job description will ensure that you'll never get a call back. A Curriculum Vitae, on the other hand, is typically used when applying for academic positions and lists ALL of your academic, volunteer and personal achievements (even if they aren't particularly relevant to the specific position to which you are applying).

So if you're looking for a non-academic job -the Resume is your lifeline.

I'm going to dedicate this post to the Resume and hopefully I can help you learn a thing or two. I won't pretend to be a Resume expert, but I'm going to try and compile a number of things I've learned over the past few years and you can decide for yourself which pointers to follow. The format I'll use will be simple - I'll first outline the general components- I doubt that most of us will consider this helpful- but I'll do it in the interest of completeness. Then I'll move on to the DOs and DONTs of writing your resume.

So let's get started shall we?

The resume generally takes 1 of 3 forms - the chronological resume which lists your experiences from most to least recent, the skills based resume which is based on your abilities/accomplishments and not where or when you learned them. The final type is a combination of the two.

Most employers seem to prefer the chronological resume, however, if you don't have much previous job experience it may be worth constructing the skills based resume instead.

Now on to the DOs and DON'Ts, keep in mind that some of this is opinion.


1. Like I said before, it is IMPERATIVE that you modify your resume for the specific job for which you are applying. Don't just sent out the same copy to 500 companies and expect to get a reply. For instance, if you are applying to a job that doesn't require lab skills - there really should be any mention on your resume that you've obtained them (just stick with MSc., PhD. etc.)

2. Use adverbs - People like to know that you are great at something, not just that you've done it. Using words like Proficiently, Efficiently, Expertly, Adroitly, Courteously or Adeptly can add extra impact to your statements and make your Resume stand out.

3. Read the job description carefully and in your resume address how you've acquired the necessary skills to perform those duties. I'd suggest making a checklist of the skills that the employer is looking for and making sure that you've illustrated how you have as many of them as possible in your resume.

4. Align your resume properly - This illustrates attention to detail.

5. Proof read and re-proof read! Then ask a friend to do the same. ANY typo or grammatical mistake can send your resume to the garbage can.

6. Provide ACCOMPLISHMENTS (quantifiable if at all possible)- A prospective employer wants to know that you are hard working and that you can excel at the job. They want RESULTS so in every possible case provide them with examples! For instance don't just give them a description of your previous work experience, tell them how you received praise from your supervisor or how you organized a successful fundraiser and made over $2000.

7. Include an extracurricular section. Just think from a resume screeners perspective - isn't that the most interesting part of a resume? If you have a hobby that makes you stand out, it could account for the bonus points that get you the interview.

8. This isn't a necessity but before submitting your resume, I'd recommend converting it to .pdf format. There are handy online tools that can do this for you including PDF Converter PDF just looks more professional and shows that you're willing to go that extra mile. It also avoids compatibility issues with the various word processing software.

9. Again not a necessity but in the interest of brevity and impact - I'd try to limit the Resume to 1 page. If you must make it two pages, make sure to try and fill them both up. NEVER make your resume more than 2 pages - it's more of a CV at that point.

10. It's probably a good idea at some point to do some brainstorming and come up with all the skills that you have developed in each of your previous school/work experiences. This way even if you don't use a particular skill on one of your resumes you'll still have it in mind when writing the next one

11. Think like a resume screener, make sure the most important points are at the top of your resume!

12. Use action verbs like conducted, performed, collaborated, analyzed, managed

13. Stress your interpersonal/communication and other transferable skills - this is most applicable when you're a researcher applying for a non-research position. I'm willing to bet Human Resources will think you have poor people skills (unfortunately people can be biased!) solely based on your degree so inform them otherwise.


1. Use fancy fonts or tons of text sizes, you want your resume to be easy on the eyes but keep the appearance professional.

2. Include irrelevant information - If the job doesn't require you (or list it as an asset) to have a particular skill - save space and don't put it on!

3. Make the body text less than 11 point font (They'll be squinting to read it)

4. Make the resume cluttered, try to make your points concise if you find yourself running out of space

5. Use personal pronouns like I, Me, My

6. Discount the power of personally delivering your resume

Two more notes - the statement "References available upon request" is generally considered OPTIONAL because employers assume it. the objective statement is also optional, personally I don't include one - but I can recognize that it has advantages (specifically for targeting a particular job)

p.s. In case you don't know what an objective statement is, you generally put it at the top of your resume under your name and it is a brief summary of your current career/personal goals.

I hope that you've found some of this information useful. If not you can always check out the links for further reading. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment or if you have some constructive input to make!

Useful Links

Resume formats resume format

Resume Do's and Don'ts

Accepted.comKelly Services

Objective statements

Toronto Job Classifieds Objective Statement

General resume resources

New Grad Life BlogspotU of T Career Website

Blog, CareersCaleD